I’ve read through President Obama’s address today when he received the Nobel Peace Prize, and thought it was well written. It seemed to cover many of the major points that makes the US great while identifying the complexity of the modern world. If you recall back to my article from when Obama was announced as the award winner, I stated:
With the award comes responsibility, however, and it is up to the President to his best to promote peace around the world. This doesn’t mean that we now have to put down our arms and remove our troops, but to ensure that people to not oppress the weak or abuse their positions of power.
Obama addressed this point by stating the following:
To begin with, I believe that all nations – strong and weak alike – must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I – like any head of state – reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards strengthens those who do, and isolates – and weakens – those who don’t.
This becomes particularly important when the purpose of military action extends beyond self defense or the defense of one nation against an aggressor. More and more, we all confront difficult questions about how to prevent the slaughter of civilians by their own government, or to stop a civil war whose violence and suffering can engulf an entire region.
I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later. That is why all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to keep the peace.
The Balkans were a good choice to use as an example, since it was an open-ended mission that mirrors much of what we are currently doing in Afghanistan and Iraq. The US presence in these two nations is not as occupiers but as defenders of stability and the civilians that just want to live normal lives. It reminds the war-weary European nations, many who have questioned the use of our military in this decade, that we will act to remove those who threaten the peace of the citizens in their own country as well as neighboring nations. There was another message for Europe in his speech that I disagree with though:
And that is why helping farmers feed their own people – or nations educate their children and care for the sick – is not mere charity. It is also why the world must come together to confront climate change. There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, famine and mass displacement that will fuel more conflict for decades. For this reason, it is not merely scientists and activists who call for swift and forceful action – it is military leaders in my country and others who understand that our common security hangs in the balance.
His call for action coincides with the current conference on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark. If you read the way he phrases his argument, he is not talking about global warming (that is, man-made global warming) but rather climate change. There is no question that our climate has changed, but there is a question as to which direction change is occurring.
Obama plans on making an appearance towards the end of the talks as a visual sign of support for the push to cutback on green house gases. I have no issue with the goal of leaving the Earth a better place than we found it, since this is one of the ideals shared by my history with the Boy Scouts. My issue is about how this improvement is achieved. We do not need an international agreement or tax to fund projects around the world to cut greenhouse gases, especially when the burden is placed on a small group of nations who are already improving their emission levels.
The President is correct, however, that nations facing famine and droughts are more likely to face violence, and we have an obligation to provide aid. For decades the US has shipped food, resources, and medicine to these nations until stability is achieved. As promoters of peace and humanity, the US and other capable nations should be providing aid without an international bureaucracy organizing the effort.
The speech is well written, so the attention now turns to the actions. Will he make the right decisions or will he bow to the pressures of the international community? He has three years ahead of him to put the ideals of the Nobel Peace Prize to action while serving as the most powerful nation in the world. He is making the right choice by sending in more troops to win the peace in Afghanistan, so there is hope that he is on the right track, but only time will tell.
UPDATE: In a coincidence, there is an article on Yahoo’s front pageabout Angelina Jolie calling for action in Sudan by President Obama. As noted above, the United States has the resources and capability of aiding Darfur far above that of any current international organization. She states, “There will be pressure on the United States and its partners to bring stability to Sudan.”